Police report: Wheaton cop fell asleep at wheel

  • Workers repair a Wheaton house after a police car crashed through the front door last September.

    Workers repair a Wheaton house after a police car crashed through the front door last September. Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

Published: 1/22/2010 12:01 AM

A veteran Wheaton police officer who accidentally drove her squad car into a house in September fell asleep moments before the crash, according to the police report filed that day.

The Wheaton Police Department released the report in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Daily Herald. Previously, authorities never officially said what caused the officer to leave the road about 4 a.m. Sept. 24 and smash through the front door of a house on Wheaton's south side.

No one was injured in the incident.

According to the report, the officer said she fell asleep about 4 a.m. while driving south on Winners Cup Circle.

After the officer drove through a stop sign and an intersection, her 2008 Ford Crown Victoria went over a curb, knocked over a mailbox and then struck the concrete front stoop of a house in the 100 block of Brighton Drive.

In the report, the officer said the impact woke her and she believed she hit the gas pedal "and the vehicle accelerated through the front door."

The squad car came to a stop several feet inside the home's foyer. The front door and part of the surrounding wall were knocked over.

Now, four months later, the officer is facing a possible suspension. City attorney Jim Knippen said a disciplinary hearing before the Wheaton Board of Fire and Police Commissioners will be scheduled once the city finds out how much it must pay for repairs to the house.

Knippen said the city's finance director has been trying for months to get a damage estimate from the homeowners' insurance provider. So far, the insurance company hasn't provided that information, he said.

Fire and police commissioners will decide the matter because Chief Mark Field only has disciplinary authority to suspend an officer without pay for up to five days. The chief has determined that a suspension greater than five days is warranted, officials said.

The police report lists apparent traffic violations related to the incident as failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and disobeying a stop sign.

Officials say no citations were issued.

The officer was working a patrol shift that begins at 10:40 p.m. and ends at 7 a.m., officials said. There are no indications drugs or alcohol were involved.

The name of the officer was redacted from the police report obtained by the Daily Herald. Her address was listed as 900 W. Liberty Drive - the Wheaton police station.

City officials said the officer won't be identified unless there is a hearing. Wheaton isn't allowed to release her name because of a clause in the contract between the union and the department.